Coping with Chronic Pain

Back after a long drought in the Ascent blogisphere!  An individual in the community was kind enough to submit an article to help our patients and others who deal with chronic daily pain.  We hope this is helpful!



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Coping With Chronic Pain Naturally

Arthritis, fibromyalgia, and migraines are just a few conditions that could cause chronic pain, which affects an estimated 25.3 million Americans. If you’ve recently found out you’re one of them, medication and physical therapy might be part of your treatment plan. But there are also changes you can make on your own to cope with chronic pain. Here are a few tips to help you get started.


Cleaning Up Your Act


Research shows the more visual stimuli we have in our environment, the harder it is to concentrate on any one thing, according to experts quoted in Fast Company. Clearing clutter can improve your ability to focus and process information. Studies have also found that being in a cluttered environment can cause the stress hormone cortisol to spike, which can not only increase your stress, but your weight, both of which can make chronic pain worse.


Before clearing clutter, come up with an organized plan of attack that accounts for the fact you might need to take frequent breaks. After all, you won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor if it causes your pain to flare up for days afterward. If you find a particular activity puts you in pain down the road, experts suggest using pacing strategies including breaking up tasks into smaller parts, working at a less-intense level, gradually increasing the time spent on a task until you know your limits, and varying activities frequently to activate different body parts.    


Emphasizing Exercise


Similarly, you should tailor your exercise routine to ensure your activity levels don’t aggravate your chronic pain or any other health concerns. But, if it’s approached correctly, physical activity can help people cope with chronic pain. In fact, engaging in moderate amounts of exercise can change people’s perception of pain and help those dealing with a chronic condition better perform everyday activities, according to one expert quoted in The New York Times.


Individuals should check with their healthcare providers before beginning a program, but there are some activities that are appropriate for many grappling with chronic pain, including:


Walking: This is a great form of light aerobic exercise that you can literally do at your own pace. And the only gear it requires is a pair of comfortable shoes. Experts suggest splitting up walks into shorter sessions throughout the day. You’ll reap the same rewards as those who do one longer walk and reduce the risk of overexerting yourself.


Strength training: Stronger muscles use less energy than weaker ones, so building them up can help you fight fatigue. Research has also shown strength training can help fight depression. Experts suggest starting with light weights and perfecting your form to get the most from your muscles and mood.


Yoga: Yoga moves through meditation, breathing exercises, and a variety of postures that help practitioners improve their endurance, energy, flexibility, sleep quality, and more. In addition to its physical benefits, yoga can also boost your mental health by making you feel less helpless about chronic pain and more in tune with the present moment.


Meditation: While it won’t help you work up a sweat, meditation is a mind-body practice that helps increase feelings of calm and relaxation while reducing the likelihood of depression, a common partner to chronic pain. While meditation won’t replace conventional treatments, experts say it can help people dealing with chronic pain put negative thoughts aside, focus on the present, and tap into a more positive outlook going forward.


And, who knows? Maybe your clutter catharsis will clear a space in your home that provides a perfect place for yoga and meditation. All you really need is a mat in a low-traffic area. You can also personalize your space with plants and add aromas with essential oils, for example. Almost any space can work as long as it feels right to you.


So you shouldn’t feel helpless in the face of chronic pain. Indeed, there are many steps you can take to cope with your condition that will improve your overall quality of life.

- Jackie Waters